Adolescent Sex Offenders and Their Transition Into Adults From Age 15 to 30 essay

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Adolescent Sex Offenders: Early Development and Transition to Adulthood (Ages 15 -30)

The objective of this study is to examine the early development of sex offenders and the adolescent activity that fosters the abnormal behavior. This study will relate to lifespan development where the focus must explain the abnormal development over a period between ages 15 and 30.

Adolescents who commit sex offenses are in many states listed on a sex offender registry for life and some of these boys are only 10 years of age. Reports show that only a small percentage of these adolescent boys go on to commit sex crimes as an adult and that many of the sex crimes committed were of the nature that are very similar to natural childhood experimentation with some of the offenders having simply grabbed a girl's buttocks or breasts on the outside of their clothing. Other more virulent offenders however, have raped children much younger than them or had children much younger perform oral sex by force.


The methodology of this study is qualitative in nature. Qualitative research is interpretive nd descriptive in nature and is a proper methodology in attempting to understand a social phenomena such as adolescent sex offenders and their psychological development.

Research Questions

The research questions addressed in this study include those, which ask what determines whether an adolescent sex offender will repeat offense, and what are the outcomes of specific types of treatment programs for adolescents sex offenders?

Literature Review

The work of Jones (2007) reports that in the early 1980s decade, as therapist, Robert Longo "was treating adolescent boys who had committed sex offenses. Their offenses ranged from fondling girls a few years younger than they were to outright rape of young children. As part of their treatment, the boys had to keep journals -- which Longo read -- in which they detailed their sexual fantasies and logged how frequently they masturbated to those fantasies. They created "relapse-prevention plans," based on the idea that sex-offending is like an addiction and that teenagers need to be watchful of any "triggers" (pornography, anger) that might initiate their "cycle" of reoffending." (p.1)

Sex offender therapy for juveniles at that time was a new field and the practice of Robert Longo, as well as other therapists in the field was based on "what he knew: the adult sex-offender treatment models." (Jones, 2007, p.1) Longo states that as it turns out "much of it was wrong. There is no proof that what Longo calls the "trickle-down phenomenon" of using adult sex-offender treatments on juveniles is effective. Adult models, he notes, do not account for adolescent development and how family and environment affect children's behavior. Also, research over the past decade has shown that juveniles who commit sex offenses are in several ways very different from adult sex offenders. As one expert put it, Kids are not short adults. That's not to say that juvenile sexual offenses aren't a serious problem. Juveniles account for about one-quarter of the sex offenses in the U.S. Though forcible rapes, the most serious of juvenile sex offenses, have declined since 1997, court cases for other juvenile sex offenses have risen. David Finkelhor, the director of Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, and others argue, however, that those statistics largely reflect increased reporting of juvenile sex offenses and adjudications of less serious offenses. "We are paying attention to inappropriate sexual behavior that juveniles have engaged in for generations. The significant controversy isn't whether there is a problem; it's how to address it. In other words, when is parental or therapeutic intervention enough? What kind of therapy works best? And at what point should the judicial system get involved -- and in what ways?" (Jones, 2007, p.1)

According to Jones, experts are advocating for a less punitive approach on an increasing basis and the opinion of the public along with public policy has moved in the other direction in that courts "have handed down longer sentences to juveniles for sex offenses, while some states have created tougher probation requirements, and, most significant, lumped adolescents with adults in sex-offender legislation." (Jones, 2007, p.1)

A National Center on Sexual Behavior of Youth Fact Sheet entitled "What Research Shows About Adolescent Sex Offenders" states that adolescent sex offenders are "defined as adolescents from age 13 to 17 who commit illegal sexual behavior as defined by the sex crime statutes of the jurisdiction in which the offense occurred." (National Center on Sexual Behavior of Youth, 2003) It is additionally stated that adolescents "…do not typically commit sex offenses against adults, although the risk of offending against adults increases slightly after an adolescent reaches age 16." (National Center on Sexual Behavior of Youth, 2003) Approximately one-third of sexual offenses against children are reported to be committed "by teenagers." (National Center on Sexual Behavior of Youth, 2003) In addition, reported is that sexual offenses against children under the age of 12 "are typically committed by boys between the ages of 12 to 15 years old." (National Center on Sexual Behavior of Youth, 2003) The factsheet states that adolescent sex offenders "are significantly different from adult sex offenders in several ways." (National Center on Sexual Behavior of Youth, 2003 ) In addition, adolescent sex offenders are "considered to be more responsive to treatment than adult sex offenders and do not appear to continue re-offending into adulthood, especially when provided with appropriate treatment." (National Center on Sexual Behavior of Youth, 2003 )

The factsheet also states that adolescent sex offenders "have fewer numbers of victims than adult offenders and on average engage in less serious and aggressive behaviors." (National Center on Sexual Behavior of Youth, 2003) In addition, most adolescents are reported to not have "…deviant sexual arousal and/or deviant sexual fantasies that many adult sex offenders have." (National Center on Sexual Behavior of Youth, 2003) The majority of adolescents are "not sexual predators nor do they meet the accepted criteria for pedophilia." (National Center on Sexual Behavior of Youth, 2003)

The factsheet states that there are very few adolescents who "…appear to have the same long-term tendencies to commit sexual offenses as some adult offenders." (National Center on Sexual Behavior of Youth, 2003) The recidivism rates for adolescent offenders who enter treatment is much lower when compared to adults. Furthermore, adolescents who commit crimes against children who are young are reported to have "…slightly lower recidivism rates than adolescents who sexually offend against other teens." (National Center on Sexual Behavior of Youth, 2003)

The factsheet states that adolescent sex offenders "commit a wide range of illegal sexual behaviors ranging from limited exploratory behaviors committed largely out of curiosity to repeated aggressive assaults." (National Center on Sexual Behavior of Youth, 2003)

In addition, it is reported that the characteristics of the adolescent sex offender group is 'very diverse." (National Center on Sexual Behavior of Youth, 2003) The factsheet reports that some of these adolescents are "…otherwise well-functioning youth with limited behavioral or psychological problems. Some are youth with multiple non-sexual behavior problems or prior non-sexual juvenile offenses. Some are youth with major psychiatric disorders. Some come from well-functioning families; others come from highly chaotic or abusive backgrounds. Contrary to common assumption, most adolescent sex offenders have not been victims of childhood sexual abuse." (National Center on Sexual Behavior of Youth, 2003)

The work of Rowe (1991) reports a follow-up study of 197 male juvenile sex offenders "referred for treatment in 1984 and who were subjects in a previous study of short-term treatment outcomes." The study reported by Rowe (1991) involved collection of extensive case-level data on each offender. Rowe states that a comparison of the characteristics of adolescent offenders and non-offenders indicated the following:

(1) No significant differences between groups based on race, social class, age, or place of residence;

(2) Offenders were significantly more estranged in all settings, including home, school, and social situations involving peers;

(3) Offenders were more likely to believe that achievement or attainment of control and power required the use of unconventional or illegitimate means; and (40 Offenders displayed significantly more commitment and exposure to delinquent peers and received less disapproval from peers for delinquent and sexually aggressive behavior. (Rowe, 1991)

Rowe (1991) states that the work of Deisher et al. (1982) "differentiated among three types of male adolescent sex offenders. The first and most common, of these types consists of youth referred for indecent liberties (sexual molestation) involving young child victims. Offenders in this category demonstrate poor social skills, isolation from peers, and low self-esteem. A significant proportion of these offenders are likely to have been sexually abused themselves. The second group of juvenile offenders are referred for sexual assault or indecent liberties with a peer or an adult. These youth often demonstrate little concern for their victims, use force, or a weapon in the commission of their crimes, are quite disturbed, and resist treatment. The final group of offenders are frequently referred for non-contact offenses, such as peeping and exhibitionism. These…[continue]

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